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Women in the Tech Communications Workforce
June 28, 2001
By Susan Flesher

Ever notice we always see more news articles and events focusing on women this time of year as Mother's Day approaches? It's probably not a coincidence when I received an invitation earlier this month to attend a breakfast with Elizabeth Carlassare, author of DotCom Divas: E-Business Insights from the Visionary Women Founders of 20 Net Ventures. The discussion was timely and informative as Elizabeth described her experience of writing about 20 gutsy women entrepreneurs who have risen to the challenge of this vibrant new economy. But as she addressed several different business dimensions between men and women, this made me pause and consider the gender differences in our own world of tech communications professionals.

Using our Flesher & Associates database of 5,000 technology PR, marcom and corporate communications professionals, I did a little research. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the professionals our firm follows in Silicon Valley are women. For the marketing communications discipline alone, the percentage of women increases to 75%. Both these statistics are significantly greater than the women's share of the national labor force, which is currently reported at only 46%. Then, I narrowed my search to look specifically at the more senior positions in our field -- management positions requiring 15+ years experience. Our database showed that while men represent 35% of the total pool, they hold a significantly higher portion of the senior positions, 47%. The communications industry has long been espoused as providing strong career opportunities for women, but apparently even our own industry shows fewer women at the high level.

There are many theories explaining why fewer women have risen to the top in business and most have merit. One explanation that Elizabeth Carlassare highlights is the never-ending "balancing act" that women perform with their work and personal lives. This balancing issue has become an increasingly important discussion item with our candidates, particularly the women. In some cases, but definitely not all, women have declined more senior roles in order to achieve a better work/life balance. And also notably, similar quality of life issues are becoming more essential to men in our field as well. As the technology market continues to mature, work/life balance issues will evolve. It will be interesting to see if these new dynamics will start to close this gender gap that exists at the higher level in our field. As Heidi Miller said, "While the Net owes its early success to names like Vint, Tim, Steve, and Bill, its future belongs to the Kims, Candices, Susans, and Rosalinds of the business world..."
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